Our Spring Community Day was held on March 8th at Bentley System's office in London where we filled Floor 9 to capacity with 97 delegates. After all, where else can you learn about robotics, AI, BIM, drones, RFID, laser scanners and virtual reality AND be challenged by the British Army to solve rapid site setup issues in war zones? It was a full day!
New Members & Guests
We were very happy to welcome 5 new members to COMIT who have all joined since the last Community Day in December 2017. They were:
We also had a total of 16 guests from Amey, Aphex, Arcadis, Bridgeway, CADVenture, CGI UK, Correvate, Delaware, NG Bailey, Skanska, Technics Group, Track Access, Pennant, University of Greenwich and 500 Words.
New COMIT Fellow
One of the first actions of the day was to bestow a COMIT Fellowship on Alf Spencer of Clugston. Alf has been a long-term member and supporter of COMIT and is shortly due to retire. The fellowship is in recognition of his contribution over the years and he is one of only four COMIT Fellows. The award entitles him to permanent personal membership so hopefully we will see him again at future events.
Thoughts from the Chairman
Steve Slater and Tony Shooter, COMIT chairs for Construction and Technology respectively, shared their thoughts on current events. Steve spoke about the evolution of the construction industry in respect to its use of technology and Tony gave an update on the launch of the Drone Community, which is a new special-interest group within COMIT.
As usual we had some great presentations from a wide range of contributors:
BIM 4 Facilities Management
David Stevens from CIBSE
The CIBSE is a professional engineering institution that sets standards on building services engineering. This includes publishing guidance and codes which are internationally recognised. Steven is the Vice Chair and Secretary of the CIBSE Facilities Management Group.
Steven talked about the benefits to FM from BIM as well as the many practical hurdles and issues. A recent survey indicated that only 45% of FM's saw BIM as a significant trend, so there are still challenges in creating a living information model that can successfully extend to the FM end of the construction life-cycle and create a new way of working.
The Impact of AI on BIM (and Construction)
Dr Maxwell Mallia-Parfit from Fulcro
A familiar face at COMIT events Max gave us a whistle-top-tour of the ways in which AI is already being used in construction. It is becoming particularly essential when working with the huge data-sets involved in BIM models and the output from technologies such as laser-scanning and imaging techniques.
Max gave examples of AI already in common use, such as satnav systems and how it is increasingly being used in agriculture alongside an acceleration in the use of robotics. Many of these developments will naturally make their way into construction. It is already being used for Computational Design for BIM and there is a growing interest in site-based robotics.
Reality Modelling into Operational Training
Dave Reed & John Bryant from Tack Access & Pennant
Dave and his colleague John Bryant from Pennant gave a fascinating presentation on how gaming technology is being used to create realist virtual environments to aid training. It began in 2002 with the production of Cab Ride videos that has developed into a system that combines real video with survey and model data. The result are tools that can be used to review survey data, inform design decisions and provide photo-realistic driver training simulations.
John Bryant described how Pennant uses the data from Track Access and how they provide the realistic simulation and training elements. This included a description of an immersive parachute training aid which can simulate parachute descent in either free-fall or static line - as well as other examples from the rail industry and London Underground.
The Hyper-Connected World - Wearables
John Tuner & Joe Campbell from SAP & Delaware
John and Joe delivered a fascinating presentation which started with Hugo Gernsback's futuristic "teleyeglasses" from 1963 and went on to describe some of the current amazing developments in wearable technology. The primary drivers in the work place are safety, productivity and efficiency and what were emerging technologies are fast becoming mainstream.
The possibilities are endless but one important use is in tracking people - staff, visitors, security personnel etc. which when combined with location-based services can offer major health and safety advantages. A more sophisticated example was a vest developed with Japanese telecom giant NTT that can monitor the wearers vital signs. This information is then combined with location, traffic and weather data and can estimate the wearers fatigue level. It is seen as a possible solution to personnel such as bus drivers falling ill or asleep at the wheel.
Robotics in Construction
Bilal Kaddouh from University of Leeds
There are many potential advantages to using robots in construction, from cost and efficiency savings to improvements in quality and the removal of people from hazardous areas. Bilal described some of the developments already making it onto construction sites, such as various forms of bricklaying automation. He also covered the increasing sophistication and use of 3D printing in a site environment. This includes mortars and concrete but also more flexible materials such as steel.
A number of manufacturers are already routinely producing equipment designed to be semi-autonomous or tele-operated, with no place for a traditional operator. Bilal also described the increasing use of drones, not just for surveys but for location, inspection and ultimately even construction and the site management of other autonomous plant.
Partnering in the Construction Industry
Alan Nuttal from Nuttall Associates
Alan discussed the issues that arise in partnering and what is required for actually making it happen. He convincingly argued that many partnering arrangements are such in name only and this is the reason they fail to deliver. He made made the point that effective partnering does not rest on contracts - a point widely accepted in the room.
Using an historical example from a £70m housing development in Peterborough, Alan explained the elements that made the particular partnering agreement work in practice. This lead to major benefits, including a programme reduction from 5 to 3.5 years and prelim savings in excess of £150k. Some points Alan made were picked up by the audience which led to a lively debate.
There is usually some technology present at COMIT Community Days, but this time we took advantage of the space available and had several rooms set aside with showcases for delegates to visit during the breaks. Our exhibitors were:
Workshop - Humanitarian Support in Urban Environment
The workshop challenge was set by representatives from the British Army Royal Engineers. With an increasing likelihood of future military operations taking place in dense urban mega-cities there is a need to address the humanitarian issues that arise in such a complex, interconnected environment.
Some of the key challenges are:
Limited freedom of movement
Fragile infra systems
Lack of infra services leads to discontent
Could be a hostile environment
Aid must be prioritised
Three different scenarios were outlined involving flood, earthquake and major fire. Delegates were then split into groups and challenged to find ways of responding to the specific issues each of the scenarios raised - from establishing the layout of a building to communication and delivering aid at scale.
The over-arching purpose of the exercise was to help identify what technologies should be focused on to develop the tools needed for such environments. This involved considering the data critical for understanding the situations and the best means of acquiring it, such as sensors and drone technology.
This was one of the most interesting and challenging workshops that COMIT has ever run. It was embraced with enthusiasm by our delegates and led to some insightful feedback.
Drinks & Networking
For those who did not have to rush away to catch trains there were free drinks after the event with a further opportunity to network and visit our technology exhibitors.
More photographs and the presentations from the event will be available our website soon. We would like to give our thanks to Bentley Systems for hosting the event and to all of our delegates, presenters and technology exhibitors. A special thanks also to the Royal Engineers for running such a brilliant workshop.
The COMIT Community is a subscription based organisation run on a not-for-profit basis by COMIT Projects Ltd. We exist to bring technology and construction companies together and to improve the use of technology in construction. If you are interested in joining the community or supporting one of our events then please get in touch via our website.